Friday, May 18, 2012


Sheet of conference logos; photo by Val Phoenix
AKA I finally get to unleash The Thing. So, yesterday was the conference I have been anticipating for some weeks now with great trepidation. German has a lovely word for my feeling: gespannt. Excited and anxious at the same time. Yes, I was truly gespannt.

As I rolled up to the London College of Communication just before 10 am, I spotted a familiar figure approaching. It was my old photojournalism tutor (at another institution) from some years back, a bit whiter of beard but still recognisable. We shook hands, chatted, he confirmed that his course has gone completely digital (a shame), and I bade him farewell and continued on my way, wondering at the omen. It was only later that I realised: a) he never had anything good to say about my work as a student and b) some of the very same photos I printed on his course were about to appear in my conference presentation. Ha!

Anyway... the conference was a whirlwind of speakers and an excellent veg lunch, but sadly devoid of any tea. Perhaps that is just as well, as I was so nervous. I was making far too many dashes for the loo as it was. I sat at the back and took restrained notes on the presentations, knowing mine was scheduled in the very last session of the day. My nerves had manifold causes. I was the only speaker who had neither an academic nor artistic background. I have never used Power Point or Pro Tools, the two applications on which I was relying. And, oh, I haven't done any public speaking since I entered an oratorical contest at 16. Which I did precisely to exorcise my fear of public speaking. I did win it, though.

Anyway... I was WAY outside my comfort zone on this little enterprise. And as I sat back and watched and listened, I tried to take in what people were saying, rather than worry over my own contribution. As one of the organisers had said the night before (during a mammoth 3-hour soundcheck), it was meant to be informal and non-competitive, a chance to share ideas and build a network of researchers working in the areas of the title.

So, obviously, terribly exciting for me to participate in and meet like-minded folk. They had come from as far as Melbourne, with a smattering of Europeans and the odd North American. And the styles varied from verbatim reading from a prepared text to showing film clips. What really surprised me was that, given that it was run by a sound art organisation (CRiSAP), how little use was made of the medium of sound art. I had expected the sound artists to really go to town in being experimental. But they were very restrained. I was actually the only contributor who made use of the eight channels on offer. Now, that's weird.

The second weird thing was I ended up closing the programme. A headlining gig! (OK, I don't think conferences have headliners, but I'm claiming it.) At the last break, just when I was heading into that last furlong of "OK, there are two speakers to go and then I can be released from my self-made anxiety prison", I was told that it would be better to swop me over to the last slot, because the computers had to be moved. OK, I said. What was another twenty minutes? I'd already waited six hours.

So, I closed the show with my 22-years-in-the-making presentation on the idea of creativity as a form of self defence, as told through interview clips with: Viv Albertine, Hanin Elias, Tribe 8, Kleenex, Kathleen Hanna, Lee Beattie, Philippa Nielsen and Manon Duursma. A small selection of brainy gals, illustrated by black and white photos, most of which I had also taken. So, it felt very DIY, in keeping with the themes of the day. I had a few technical flubs, but it felt great operating the faders and advancing the slides, though I never got to actually sit and hear the eight channels flooding the room with sound or see the slides on the big screen behind me. Someone told me it worked really well, though, and I was so proud and relieved when I stepped back. I couldn't relax, though, because there was a Q&A (another first for me) to cap it off.

It was an amazing buzz and I am so pleased I got to participate. I didn't meet a whole lot of other people, as I was running around preparing during the day, but I did have a few chats with attendees and speakers and finally got to meet Caro Snatch, whom I'd interviewed via Skype for my podcast. She spoke on studio recording techniques undermining women's voices, which I found quite illuminating. I also met Annie Goh, who did a great demonstration of echo and reverb, referring to the myths of Echo and Narcissus. And I finished the day by chatting to researcher/journalist Theresa Beyer about German-language hip-hop.

I really hope something comes of the event, in terms of linking disparate areas and approaches to research in sound and gender. I definitely want to find out more about the Her Noise archive, which has just moved to LCC.


Direcção said...

You were great!

It was an amazing event.
It was nice meeting you.

Val Phoenix, scribe said...

Hey, Helena,
Great meeting you, too! I really enjoyed your presentation. Good luck with the book.

Theresa said...

Dear Val,

I felt exactly the same and I have to say that your finishing let a deep impact because you let the women's voices speak!

All the best,


Val Phoenix, scribe said...

Hallo, Theresa!
Wie geht's?

Thanks for the comment. I wanted it to only be the women's voices, but was advised I should provide context. Otherwise, I would not have been up there, believe me!

I am going to see if I can turn it into a .mov and send it to some festivals.

Joly MacFie said...

Keen on seeing this in NYC!

Val Phoenix, scribe said...

Will try that again.

Hi, Joly,
Fingers crossed it gets to NYC, especially as it is my hometown. Have to edit and find somewhere to send it first, though.